Friday, July 28, 2006

Late Afternoon Scare

All was going well today in the office until about 4p.m.. I was sitting at one of the computers and suddenly the building started shaking. We had a pretty big earthquake today. The tremor lasted for about a minute, it was intense. Everyone in the office stopped what they were doing and began to wonder if they should head for the We have lots of quakes here, but this one was especially intense. The news said it registered 6.1 on the Richter Scale.

Yet another fun moment here in

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Lottery Madness!

The Taiwanese government a few years back decided to crack down on "under-the-table" sales by local businesses. They had a serious lack of revenue coming in considering the size of the economy. The folks in charge decided to deal with this problem in a very clever way. They started a lottery based on store receipts. Every time you buy something in Taiwan, you get a government issued receipt with an eight-digit number on it. The picture on the right is a receipt I got today from the store in my building. The 04836781 is the random eight-digit number assigned to this one. The government draws four sets of numbers every two months and if you have a ticket that matches at least three numbers in one of the sets, you win money! If you manage to have a ticket with all eight of the numbers matching one from the drawing, you win NT$2,000,000. The opportunity to strike it rich makes it a certainty that people will want their receipts. Therefore under-the-table sales are few and far between. The drawings are for all the receipts collected in the previous two months, they add up! In order to win, you have to look at the numbers from right to left. For example, if the next drawing has a set with this combination: 87543781, the ticket in the picture would win because it matches the "781".

We just had a drawing yesterday and I won. I had 7 matching receipts! I had six receipts that matched three numbers, and one that matched four...for a total of NT$2200, or about $70 American. I know that's not a ton of money, but hey, it's money for nothing!

The really crazy aspect of all of this is I booked my hotel for Bangkok last week and the total came to 2,556 Baht (the money in Thailand). After I won, I decided to see how many Baht this is equal to...this is winnings are equal to 2,562 Baht...yikes! That is an eerie coincidence.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Black Keys Update

Just found out The Black Keys new album is coming out on September 12th! You know I am chomping at the bit for this one. It's called Magic Potion.

The guys are getting serious attention world-wide, how exciting. They are going to be opening up for none other than Radiohead while they tour the West Coast in the U.S. What a great opportunity for them to get big-time exposure. Also, I just heard them on a new TV commercial for Sony...that is incredible.

In case some of you don't know, The Black Keys are a couple of young guys from my hometown that are making in big in the rock music scene. They were working together for a lawn-mowing company when they decided to start playing music...check em out, they freaking rock!!

I've included a couple of cool picks of the guys jamming on stage. I've been told that they are perhaps the loudest live band you'll ever When you listen to them, you won't believe it's only two guys.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

New Blog!

I just started another blog. This one is for my students. They are all very busy and sometimes miss class because of their workloads. In order to make it easier for them to keep up with the class, I am gonna be posting all of my lesson plans on my new blog. Thus far, I am only doing it for one of my classes. I hope to integrate the others soon.

check out my new creation:

I hope the kids will take advantage of this.


This is Gavin. He is my co-boss. Him and his wife run the show. He is a terrific guy, always has a smile on his face. One of those guys that's just fun to be around.

The Chiang Kai-Sheik subway sign. CKS is the George Washington of Taiwan. The subway stop lets you out right in front of the giant memorial.

This is class 1035. They are one of the reasons I love my job so much. An incredible bunch of kids that really inspire me. The little girl in the green and white shirt and the boy on the far right are my favorites, amazing kids.

There I am. You folks are always clamoring about not seeing me in enough of these pictures. I hate having my picture taken! This is just a random group of kids hanging out near my desk. Cindy, in the red, is brilliant! She is now in high school level English. She is just in 2nd grade in her regular school.

Friday, July 21, 2006

New Siam II & Feeling Like a Local

I'm all set for Bangkok next month! I just got my confirmation from the hotel and everything is in order. I will be arriving on August 18th and leaving on the 21st. Not the longest vacation, but I've been told 3 or 4 days at a time in BKK is just about right. I'm really pumped about this trip. I hope this is the first of many adventures in Southeast Asia.

Was running around town today and it dawned on me that I have been here nearly a year...crazy. I stopped at the old hostel to say hello to Raul & Margos. They were doing great, as usual. The place was hopping with new arrivals that had a million and one questions. The fact that I was able to answer virtually all of them was an indication that I truly am getting the hang of living here. I felt like I was an employee of the Taipei Chamber of

Catherine, the cutie that works at the store in the same building as the hostel, was working today. She is very cute and has a fun disposition. She is Burmese, I think. Her & I were talking and she mentioned she'd like me to share some of my music with her. She has an Ipod too and needs some more tunes...that's me, Mr. She gave me her email and I'm gonna send her a bunch of good stuff, along with an invitation to dinner...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Couldn't resist taking this one. This billboard is at the entrance of my local subway station. To Taiwanese people, pasty white skin is ideal. There is a huge market here for products to make you ghostly white...odd. Folks here are totally freaked out by the sun. It's not uncommon to have to dodge umbrellas on a perfectly sunny day.
Fridge magnets! An insanely popular collectible here. I have been sucked into the magnet mania. Every time you spend a few bucks in one of the local convenience stores, you get a free magnet. There are three major convenience stores here and they use the magnets to draw customers, it works! The ones at the bottom are highly coveted...I have a zillion of
Sogo, the monster department store chain in Taipei. This is actually one of their smaller stores. I love the design, not the prices.
A common sight here. Temples are constructed in alleys amongst all of the towering apartment buildings. This one is next to my local supermarket. It's a beautifully ornate little building.

Vacation Agenda

Since I had to postpone my trip to Bangkok, I have decided to use this week to get stuff done that I've been putting off.

First, I bought my camera. I will be posting pics taken with the new camera soon! Yesterday, I bought my plane ticket for Bangkok.

Also, I am going to get my hair cut, take care of the stuff I have to do to extend my residents visa for another year, and develop some long-term lesson plans for my classes. This is not everything I have planned, but it's the big stuff. Oh, and I am gonna clean my apartment.

My good friends from Ireland left Taiwan today. They are a really cool couple thats been staying in the hostel for the past 6 months or so. They are going back to Ireland after they travel through southern Europe, I'm jealous!

Another fun thing I've been working on these past few days is putting together a plan for my trip to Thailand. What an awesome place. There is a place called Chatuchak Market that has over 15000 vendors selling everything under the sun dirt cheap. This market is so big, they sell maps just to help you figure out where you are...shoppers heaven! Of course I am going to check out the numerous temples, or Wats as they are known in Thai. I guess the gold Buddhas are mind-boggling. The Temple of the Reclining Buddha or Wat Pho, has a statue of Buddha that is 150 feet long and 50 feet high, built in the 16th century, cool.

Tomorrow, I am going to get my hair cut. It's going to be an adventure...

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Canon Ixy 70

I bought a new digital camera today. As I mentioned before, I have been saving my pennies for this purchase. It worked out really well. The camera was about $30 more than I thought it would be, but that's well within the margin of error.

It's a pretty nifty little thing, and I mean little. It's the smallest camera made, I think. Not much bigger than a deck of playing cards. You can't buy this model of camera in the US, it's made in Japan for use in Japan and Europe only. I got a very good deal on it because it doesn't have Chinese programmed into it...not a big hit in a Chinese-speaking I looked it up on the internet and it's known as the Canon Powershot SD600 Digital Elph in the US.

Taiwan is THE place to buy electronics. I paid about $100 less than I would have if I had purchased it in the States. Also, they threw in a 1GIG memory card, an extra battery and a really cool carrying case (about $125 worth of stuff)...a killer deal. Haggling for price isn't the way it's done here, ya gotta haggle for the extras, I did.

The main reasons I decided on this camera are portability, image quality, and the optical view finder. It's small enough to fit into any pocket and the pictures are stunning. Best of all, it has the traditional view finder. Most of the camera companies have stopped using them, relying solely on the LCD screen. I've never been a big fan of framing all my shots with the LCD, I just don't feel like I can really zero in on the object.

A by-product of this purchase came in the form of a phone number from the stunning Her name is Phoebe and she would like me to tutor her in English. She is really cute and anxious to get together. She recently graduated from a local university with a degree in Japanese & English and wants to continue to improve her language skills...I'm the man!!! She gave me her cell phone number before I had a chance to ask her, how Tears nearly came to my eyes when she offered me her I guess I gotta figure out a way to work the tutor/date angle, it's a fine line and I don't want to screw up a chance to spend time with such an incredible woman. Wish me luck everyone!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Paradise Postponed & Coins To Cameras

I have a weeks vacation next week and I was planning to go to Bangkok for 3 or 4 days. Well, I waited too long to book a flight and it's just too expensive to do now. Common sense won't allow me to pay a ridiculously inflated ticket price. This month is a very popular travel time in this part of the world so the airlines jack up the prices. I have some flexibility at work so I am gonna go to Thailand next month, the plane ticket for next month is nearly half as much as the one for next week. No worries, it gives me more time to plan and save some more money. I bought the Lonely Planet guide to Bangkok today, what an incredible place.

For the past 8 months or so, I have been throwing all of my coins in a jar at the end of the day. My goal was to eventually buy a digital camera with the stash. The jar filled up much quicker than I had anticipated and I think I am going to buy a camera this week. I already have a digital camera, but it's a huge, clumsy thing that's impossible to take with me when I am on the move. The one I want to buy is about as big as a deck of playing cards and has a ton of cool functions. I want it primarily because of its portability. We'll see, I'm usually pretty cautious when it comes to buying big-ticket items. My impulsive side is geared towards the millions of little things that I

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I found this poem. Think it's pretty insightful.

by Ronald Wallace

Some days I find myself
putting my foot in
the same stream twice;
leading a horse to water
and making him drink.
I have a clue.
I can see the forest
for the trees.

All around me people
are making silk purses
out of sows' ears,
getting blood from turnips,
building Rome in a day.
There's a business
like show business.
There's something new
under the sun.

Some days misery
no longer loves company;
it puts itself out its.
There's rest for the weary.
There's turning back.
There are guarantees.
I can be serious.
I can mean that.
You can quite
put your finger on it.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Magic Gopher

OK, this freaks me out. I am not very good in the math & sciences, so perhaps some of you can figure this one out?...I am clueless!

Click on the link and give it a shot, it's pretty neat.

Inspiring? I Hope So

There is an old Hindu proverb that says:

A poor teacher tells. An average teacher explains. The good teacher demonstrates. The excellent teacher inspires.

I think it expresses the very real differences in teachers. I have seen the 4 types of teachers in action. The school I work at is very big. Therefore, I have had a chance to witness many different types of teaching styles. After spending some time in a school it's very easy to see which teachers are inspired, and which ones are mailing it in...

I know that I am somewhere between the demonstrator and the inspirer, depending upon the

Shelley Belly

Happy Birthday Shell! I didn't forget about your birthday, I swear. I mentioned your big day to mom on the phone a few days back and she said you and the fam were spending the week in Hawaii, or some other god-forsaken I told her I was going to call ya, she said you were on the road. Besides, I'm still not sure your phone will accept my calls? You gotta do something about the blocker thingy.

Oh, by the way everyone, Shelley is my sister. She is the sibling that has consistently made the rest of us look so Shelley is the one who always did what mom asked her to do and excelled in pretty much everything she has ever done. The one trait that Shell & I share is our penchant for clutter...neither one of us will ever win the good housekeeping award for neatness. This is not to say we are dirty, just a bit challenged when it comes to being organized. It's in our blood, mom has been battling the clutter bug for years. I love ya sis.

Hope you had a great day/vacation Smelly Shelley!

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.
-Mother Theresa

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Mom's Birthday

My mom's big day is this week. I hate being so far away on her birthday. I called her over the weekend and she sounded great...she has a policy of not acknowledging her

We discussed a possible visit home. It's not easy making the big trip back the US, very expensive. I'm gonna shoot for sometime in November, we'll see.

Every time I talk to mom it recharges my batteries and helps me focus. She is such a driving force in my life. Everything I do here has a little bit of Karen-inspired motivation in its core. As much as I would like to be home and spending more time with mom, I know I am doing the right thing here and she is 110% behind me.

She has made it through much more difficult challenges than I have and knowing this has enabled me to conquer many of my inner-demons.

I love you mom.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Bangkok & The Greenpeace Warrior

I've got a week of vacation coming up and I've decided to take a trip to Thailand. Check out the pics above, this is where I am heading. It's pretty inexpensive from here and I'm dying to check it out. Plan on spending a night or two in Bangkok and then venturing out to the beaches. Gonna check out a place called Koh Sumui, it's supposed to be spectacular. It's an island that has outstanding beaches. The only industry they have is coconuts! The movie "The Beach" with Leo DiCaprio was filmed nearby, it's paradise. Trying to figure out how to make this trip happen, it's tricky.

Jami, my niece, is leaving in a few weeks for a mission with Greenpeace. She is going to be in Europe for some training, sounds cool! Anyone who knows Jami will tell you that this is her thing, she is gonna have a great time. I can't wait to hear about her heroic adventures!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

World Cup Madness

The World Cup soccer tourney has been incredible. I read the other day that there are 3 times as many viewers as the Super Bowl for EVERY World Cup game! That is pretty amazing when you consider there are about 60 games in total. I've been glued to the TV for many of the matches. It's not easy here because they don't come on until 11pm. The second game of the night starts at 2am...sleep has been as At work we've been collecting the World Cup pins from McDonalds, they are pretty neat. Each country has its own pin with their flag and a peanuts character playing soccer. I know, I know, I'm not 12 years's fun!